Drones: The Video Whisperer Enters the Modern Age

Red Kites flying over Blackberry Hill at Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire, England

 

Well it’s true, but don’t worry, it doesn’t mean every shot is going to be a drone shot now.

But heck, it certainly was a lot of fun.

First and last shot in the video below were my first actual drone shots. I was practicing. Due to bad weather after that, it’s a good thing I did.

I know, I know, I flew over traffic and people. My bad.

But in the first instances of using this Phantom 3 Standard drone over empty fields just a few moments before, I was so amazed by the technology I couldn’t resist it.

You see, my introduction a few years back was with a Ghost Drone, supposedly just then introducing the technology of controlling drones through a smartphone. Problem was, I don’t think their IOS software (I use iPhone) was quite dialed in. It was a disaster.

I never got a decent shot and wound up crashing and destroying 3 of them.

This entry-level Phantom blew my mind.

Now I want the Mavic Pro 2.

Anyway, enough of that. This is not a review of drones. I think everyone reading this already knows a lot more than I do.

Instead, let’s talk about the video.

This video is meant to be an ‘update’ on a new facility opened up at Belvoir Castle in England. It’s the first video since the place was opened last summer, but I wasn’t here to do a video of it. My last updates showed it in quite a state of construction–like scenes out of movies during the reconstruction of Europe after WWII.

So we had some catching up to do.

It’s opening was a greater success than dreamed of, and more importantly, since then the parking lot is full every day of the week, even now in the cold bleak English almost Winter. So they must have done something right.

This video catches us up and shows all who haven’t come what is there and what’s to come (since it isn’t quite finished yet). It’s meant to be a hold-over at least until Christmas.

Then we’ll update again.

Eventually, when it’s done, we’ll do a finished posh version that can reside on their website.

What’s to tell?

Not much. The whole process is no different than I cover in my book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

As usual, it’s all hand-held, except the interview.

It’s quite long, but that’s because there’s already a substantial following that will probably watch it all the way through.

It’s a local thing. So it was important to show what is there and a bit of the flavor of what is there.

It was shot mostly during part of one day with a few pick-ups. Edited over most of the next day.

It was all on my own in terms of narrative edit and content (no other input), which I prefer and which is 99% of the case with each of the 300 or so videos I’ve done in the past several years.

It was approved first time through.

It’s not perfect, and some of you eagle eyes will figure out why.

But I think it does the trick.

 

 

Music Festival Highlights Video

 

I haven’t posted anything here for a while. Sorry about that. I’ve been renovating an old forge (1652) which will see a new life as a 4 bedroom house with a beautiful walled private garden.

But I did have to put together a highlight video for a festival which I shot last August. It is targeted to local (French) government agencies and private businesses for the purpose of raising funds through sponsorship and grants for next year’s festival.

I crammed about a week’s worth of highlights into about 3 1/2 minutes. To keep a musical continuity I selected two songs from the festival to be the music score and used subtitles to get across the significance of the different events to potential new sponsors.

The idea was to show, 1) A lot of people came to this small town, 2) They all had a great time, 3) There were multiple events of all sorts all week long to interest and involved people in various ways. I didn’t even get it all in there, but enough to get the idea across.

That’s it really. Nothing fancy, but fun to throw together just the same.

All shot hand held on the Sony PXW X70 and NX30. Edited and color balanced in FCPX.

Here’s the English subtitled version: (the main one is in French)

When the 4 Camera Shoot Becomes a 1 Camera Shoot

The ‘Balcony Serenade’ Parade around Chalabre, first of its kind.

This was the Grande Finale Concert of the week long music festival Chalabre en Sérénade in Chalabre, France where I live.

Vinx is my neighbor here, and as we are both taking actions to promote the area, all my shooting was volunteered.

Most all my coverage of the various events was with a single camera, adequate to produce promotional material for next year.

Two events were multi-camera shoots including the Grande Finale, not for purposes of producing a concert video, but perhaps for releasing a few of the songs from the 3 hour event.

In this case I had two fixed cameras plus my hand-held (X70 fixed taking sound off the board, and RX10ii on a fixed side angle). Hand-held was the NX30. Additionally a new friend who came to perform, but  who also produces high-end commercials in Hollywood as well as documentaries, was shooting the finale with me.

But, as happens, it ran longer than anticipated.

One by one my camera cards filled up and they went off line. Alone, it was impractical to climb up ladders and what-not to change cards and batteries for the other cameras. But unbeknownst to me, my other shooter was chased off-stage by the stage manager and so he wasn’t there for the end either.

Down to one camera.

The unfortunate thing was that what happened at the end was rather unexpected–and quite emotional. I had to cover it.

Even if you don’t watch the whole 16 minute video below, the first two minutes will tell you why this was so. (in short, he was recovering from brain surgery a few months back and it wasn’t even certain that he’d be able to partake much at all in the festival that he created)

I had asked Vinx before the show if he was going to take to the stage. He said he wasn’t sure.

He did intro each of the acts, but when it came to the very end, imagine my surprise as I realised he was going to perform the Grande Finale.

So I covered it as best I could trying to anticipate when to be where and when it would be ok to change locations requiring some sort of edit handling.

When it was all over and done I thought about how I was going to put together an edit of this emotional ending for the benefit of his fans, the attendees (who all wished they didn’t have to leave) and those who wanted to come but couldn’t.

B roll saved the day…, but in this case, I think I used it rather cleverly…

(Like and Share if you would…not for me but for Vinx)

Check him out at vinx.com

Technical:

All hand held with Sony HXR NX30 and Sony PXW X70 and OSMO. Aerials by Jastero with DJI Phantom Pro.

Edited on FCPX.

For those who noticed, I never had ‘banding’ of any kind with the NX30 and was unable to handle it after trying a few of the usual solutions. Strange that it was locked, not rolling. Anybody know what that is and how to handle it?

Marketing a Sculptor (or anyone or anything for that matter)

If you’re English, you’ve probably heard of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, England’s most famous landscape architect.

Last year England celebrated the 300th year of his birth with events around the country all year long.

Brown was responsible for the landscapes of over 170 of Englands most famous estates. And, in England, when we say ‘estate’ we mean BIG house with LOTs of land. If you’ve ever been to England as a tourist visiting any one of these famous estates, chances are you saw Brown’s work, never realising that those ‘natural’ landscapes you were looking at were created by a landscape architect.

If you haven’t been to England but have seen Downton Abbey (filmed at Highclere Castle), well, that’s Brown too.

Anyway, one might assume there’d be a statue of Brown somewhere in England after all that time, but until a few days ago, there wasn’t. Nor were there any plans for one, even though a £1,000,000 was spent celebrating Brown’s birthday last year.

Enter my wife, Laury Dizengremel, sculptor.

Well, watch the video to see what happened. But the purpose of the video was not to simply document the making of the statue and it’s ribbon cutting on the Thames River in London last week. Rather it was to market the sculptor. And you probably wouldn’t think that when you watch it.

This brings me to something mentioned in an earlier post when I referred to a new chapter for the print release of the Run ‘n Gun Videography book (which, sorry, I haven’t gotten around to doing yet. The chapter, yes. The update, not yet).

The Chapter is called Marketing Viewpoint.

It’s simple. In order to market effectively you have to assume the viewpoint of the eventual target audience.

In this case, it’s a rather small audience–people who want a bronze statue made.

So, if you can remember, when you watch the video, try to assume the viewpoint of someone shopping for a sculptor to make a bronze statue that costs anywhere from $40,000 to $90,000 and up. That’s not money spent lightly. One has to do one’s homework.

Tell me what you’d think as that prospective statue buyer after you watch the video. Would you contact her?

In related news…

The other by-product of my trip to China is this video of Laury telling the story of how that whole ‘China Connection’ thing came about years ago…

A Family Video

I wasn’t going to share this public at first, but just watched it recently and thought I would for an interesting reason.

I follow a lot of video groups on FB and Linked in.

One thing that comes up a lot–and I do understand it–is requests for what is the best stabiliser. Frankly, there are some new fantastic ones out there, and one day I might even buy one. But it’s low on my list and may never happen.

The most recent request asked if the expensive ones were better. My reply was along the lines…”yes”.

That said, back in my day of using a Steadicam, they cost something around $30,000. Maybe they still do. A cheaper alternative at the time (the 90s) was the Glidecam. I used that too. The Steadicam was way better.

So even though prices are down, you get what you pay for.

But do you really need one?

Depends what you do, of course, but my view is that technology isn’t there to correct bad camerawork. And that seems to be the inspiration behind some of these posts. “What’s the best stabiliser?” “What’s the best post stabilisation program that’s free?”

Nothing beats good camera work to begin with. That takes time and practice. In this age of technology, some people seem to think it’s there to solve their inadequacies. I beg to differ.

Anyway, if you’ve read my book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Loner Shooter’s Survival Guide, you’ll know that I follow the ‘less is more’ philosophy when it comes to equipment.

I have 3 small cameras. All Sony. The NX30, X70 and RX10ii.

In this video I had the NX30 along, the oldest of the three.

I bought it because of it’s stabilisation technology. I didn’t want another bag with more kit requiring more time to set up. I wanted a camera that was a wingman for run and gun work. Something that would let me keep my attention on the job, not on the equipment.

I never use tripods, except for sit down interview. Never. And for the same reason.

So, it follows, everything in this video is hand-held.

Would anyone notice?

Beyond that, it may have no interest for most viewers. It’s a family video that only means something to those involved. My wife is French (she’s the one trying to get the others to dance at the end of the video), and what you are seeing here is the beginning of the move from the last family home in Saint Saens, France. All the others are long gone. This is the last one, and this is the last walk through the garden by father and daughter, a father who inherited the house decades past and spent all those years carrying on the stewardship of a house that was in the family for 300 years.

I only started shooting clips over the last two days there, so had little to choose from. The song was played on our last evening there (in the scene where they are all drinking calvados), so copyright issues aside, that was obviously the one to use. Made for an easy edit too.

Most of the shots were candid, except where they obviously knew I was there.

Yea, one shot is through a dirty window, but what I captured there was priceless.

The girls cried and cried. Watched it several more times and cried even more. (That’s a good thing).

Moral of the story: Quit worrying about your equipment and get your attention out there capturing things that matter to people and clients.

(as a note, the one weakness of the NX30 is lack of ND filters, and thus some difficulty in rendering details in bright exteriors)

 

 

Confessions of a Run and Gunner

The Ritz

 

Warning: This is an 11 minute video. The  subject is St. James’s Square, London, one of the most historical and prestigious districts of London.  All of the following will be of no value at all if you don’t plan on watching it. This is for those of you who plan to.

This video is not typical of what I do, but I treated it like any other that I do. And all that is covered in the book Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide.

It wasn’t typical, because it is long (11 minutes).

In the book I talk about how to do and edit interviews. Up until now, I’d say for an hour of interviews, I cut out on average about 50% or more. That means all of my questions and all of the answers that I know I won’t use. What’s left is what I use to construct the narrative.

In this case, I had just over an hour of interview, and with my questions cut out, over 95% of is was totally usable. That’s never happened before.

This was a case of a very educated, experienced and articulate Brit. There are many like him. I just never got to interview one. And I’ve done over 1000 interviews.

I already knew I was going to produce multiple properties from his interview, but when it came to the first one–an overview of the St. James’s Conservation Trust, when I got it reduced down to about 11 minutes, I felt I couldn’t cut it down any more without losing.

Sure, he didn’t say it all in the order your hear it, but in crafting an overview and knowing that it’s first showing would be to a prestigious event in St. James Park attended by a lot of very important people, I felt I just had to work with that 11 minutes and make it as visually interesting as possible.

That was what was different about it.

As to the rest, it was all hand-held, except for the interview of course.

Why is that worth bringing up?

Well try going around St. James Square and in the vicinity of a working palace and other important clubs and high-end shops in the heart of historic London with a big camera and a tripod and see how far you get.  The client was even concerned that I get all the right ‘permissions’. I told him, “don’t worry about it”.

All that B roll was shot with my teeny weenie Sony HXR NX30 hand-held.

The interview was shot with my Sony PXW X70. And guess what? I somehow screwed that up, inadvertently shooting with high gain.

Though we were in the offices of the Ritz Hotel, we weren’t able to get a suite in the Hotel for the shoot. I was your typical white room. So to get that interview look I had to 1) apply Neat Video de-noiser to it, 2) use Color Finale to get the best separation from subject to background (after doing my best with foil to keep spill lights off the back wall) and , 3) Used the vignette tool from Digital Rebellion (it’s awesome–much better than the FCPX tool, because you can manipulate it on all axises, control its shape, ctc.)

TIP: When using Neat video, get your look, then disable it. It’s very processor intensive and whenever you change an edit it will want to re-render again. So get your look, disable it, and when you’re all done, re-enable it and let it render everything one time.

The other regular practices were shooting tons of B roll and how I found a stock music piece that worked (two in this case) and made them seem like they were written for the video. Seriously, if you manage to watch it once through, try again and just listen to how the music plays to and enhances the narrative. It was pretty magical–considering it’s stock.

B roll:  As much as I preach about shooting TONS of B roll to cover your edits, even I, in this case, did not shoot enough. In fact I made 3 trips to London in all. And still didn’t shoot enough. There was just SO MUCH covered in more than an hour of interview, I was lucky to scrape by in order to produce this one (and the next one I’m working on now). More properties will probably develop from this, and when that happens I’ll edit the narrative first and then get back on a train to London with a list…

Shooting handheld:  Shooting hand-held is one thing. You should also know that for almost all of these hand-held shots I applied 50% slow mo. And in most cases ALSO added stabilisation. Some from FCPX and some using CoreMelt’s ‘Lock and Load”.  Also (did you know?) that once you apply any kind of speed change in FCPX, you can then select a video standard of either ‘frame blending’ or ‘optical flow’. I used optical flow which smooths it out just a little bit more. Also, in some case (shooting those wall plaques), I shot them both as stills (on the NX30) and as slow zooms. In the edit I wound up animating the stills rather than using the zooms. And finally, (as dictated by the edit and conformity with surrounding shots, i.e. continuity), I also often applied manual key-framed zooms to my shots.

Marketing yourself: Also covered in the book. Relevant here is this: Sometimes you do something for cheap with malice aforethought. I had done another video for an organisation that had often asked but never hired me. Finally I did a birthday video for the daughter’s 18th. That was so well received I was asked to do one for the organisation–for cheap. I did it because I knew their upscale clientele would see it and it would likely get me more business. It got me two commissions worth £6000, including this one.

Now you know all my secrets.

Ok, so this is run’n gun. As covered in the book, it ain’t perfect. It won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the various film geeks out there. But it does the job and the stuff that the geeks will gleefully point out won’t be the things that the intended audience will ever see or concern themselves with.

The test is, does it get the message across with clarity and impact.

 

Free Book Offer: Run ‘n Gun Videography–The Lone Shooter’s Survival Guide

Run 'n Gun Videography

I’ve decided to enrol in KDP Select which gives me some promotional options including making the book available for FREE for 5 days.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m doing it for two reasons.

  1. I’m locked into KDP select for 90 days during which period the book can only be available on Kindle. So that gives me a sort of deadline for making the book available in soft cover and putting it on other platforms. I can’t promise it, but it’s a good target for me because I’m going to be pretty busy before then anyway. Plan is to update it and make it available in hardcover next fall.
  2. Though the book has sold a few hundreds copies, it’s only gotten about a little over 30 reviews between the UK and US markets. They’re all good reviews, but I’d like to see a lot more reviews.

The Free Download Offer is NOW LIVE on Amazon and runs through Sunday.

I hope that most of my subscribers here who don’t have it yet will take the opportunity to download it.

In exchange I have a humble request: Please review it on the Amazon page once you’ve read it.

US Amazon Link

UK Amazon Link

Available world wide.

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